Rabdos stood on the second floor of his tower, leaning against the third course of stones comprising that story’s walls and looked down on the holding pens. There in the corral stood a naked Robert Dante, chained to a center stone and thrashing about like a wild stallion fighting domestication. Dante struggled with the chain, lashing it against the stone in rage trying to break free. He wouldn’t. They never did.
The low stone fences of the corral were covered in lemurs and a few imps Rabdos didn’t recognize. Normally he’d run off the interlopers, but he had not in this instance as they did not bear the brand of an overlord. He’d try and recruit them later but he’d have to be careful. Not many in Hell still used the old ways of concealing their mark, but some did. He didn’t want a spy or saboteur in his new crop of minions. He wasn’t worried about a spy. Lord Malphas had been quite clear on how to ensure that didn’t happen.
Rabdos leisurely strolled down the winding steps of his tower under construction, exiting at the ground floor right before the corral. Dante saw his approach and croaked out a horse howl of rage, thrashing hard enough to draw blood from the manacles that held his wrists. The gathered lemurs and imps chuckled quietly as they looked from Rabdos to Dante and back. Dante’s chest heaved with every breath but he didn’t speak.
“Fight all you want, but this is your home now,” Rabdos said. The demon snapped his fingers and an official looking document on parchment appeared floating next to him. “And this says you are my property here.”
“Yes, well as you can see we are building our stronghold and you have the opportunity to be on the ground floor of power here, so to speak. I don’t actually have to do all this,” he said waving his hands at the stone and chain that held Dante. “But that would leave you without the proper motivation, and I’ve found that to be, well, inconvenient to say the least.”
Dante just stared at Rabdos.
“You see, I could compel you to do anything I want. Like this; bark like a dog,” Rabdos said.
“Bark, bark, bark,” Robert Dante yelled with the scratchy throat.
“Good boy. Howl as though you’re a werewolf and you’ve just seen the full moon.”
“Bray like a jackass.”
“Hee haw, hee haw.”
“Excellent. You see? I can make you do anything I want,” Rabdos stated, spreading his arms. The lemurs and imps chuckled loudly. “But that means I have to be there watching you every moment of every day to ensure you do exactly what I want and that just will not do.”
Rabdos moved in close enough to Robert Dante so the man could reach out and grab him but he didn’t. “What I need from you, my first recruit, is that vaunted free will and spirit working for me because you want to. This, this demonstration is merely a show of power to entrench in your mind that I am the one to be obeyed.”
Rabdos held the chain for a moment more and then snapped his fingers. Instantly the chain vanished leaving Robert Dante standing on the rocky ground free but naked and covered in his own blood. He stood tall for the first time in several days and stretched, flexing his fingers and looking at Rabdos with a questioning glance.
“Yes, I can see you thinking about trying to kill me, and you could try. That would be a waste though,” Rabdos said. “You’re smart, so you figure out what would happen, but I’ll tell you this. If you willingly follow me I will make you my lieutenant and grant you power over all my minions as though I were speaking myself.”
The gathered lemurs and imps marveled at that offer, knowing full well what it entailed. Rabdos noted two of the smarter imps slowly slipped off the stone fence and out of reach of Robert Dante. Dante thought just for a moment and then his face cracked into the kind of grin the axe murder carries just before he chops up the couple making love in the horror movie.
Before any of the imps on the stone wall could react Dante was on them, grabbing one in each hand by the throat. He snarled in feral rage, smashing their heads together over and over until their limp bodies thrashed about no more.
Rabdos saw his opening and took it. “You two. Serve me and I will assign you to my lieutenant as his personal servants. You will be first amongst his cadre.” Rabdos said offering the two lowly imps power for their service. Both leapt off the stone wall and groveled before Rabdos who instantly marked them with his symbol. The imps thrashed about in blissful agony as the mark burned into their flesh then faded from view. As the mark faded they both scampered about snatching up as many lemurs as they could grab and offered them to Rabdos. He repeated the ritual, marking the captured lemurs and then faced Dante.
“Had you attacked me I would have burned you to a cinder. As it is these will serve you and communicate with you via these lemurs once you’ve returned to Eden. Go now. I return you to your home,” Rabdos said, calling up his axe and striking it on the ground. A crack formed and snaked out toward Robert Dante.
“To guard you against your worldly authorities we will have to change one minor detail about you,” Rabdos said lifting his axe as the oily smoke began to roll up from the crack. He spoke some words and a broad stream of hellfire shot out of the axe head engulfing Robert Dante’s face. Dante screamed in pain. Immediately, Rabdos dropped his axe and leapt onto Dante, grabbing the naked man by the face with both clawed hands. Dante tried to reach up and rip the demon from him but found his arms pinned at his sides. Rabdos began massaging the man’s face in a practiced motion just as Lord Malphas had instructed him. Dante screamed with every bit of pressure applied by the demon’s fingers but couldn’t move or do anything to stop him. Slowly the fires subsided as Rabdos molded and massaged the flesh under his fingers as though it were clay. Finally, the demon coughed up a wad of saliva from deep inside his chest and spat it directly onto Robert Dante’s face.
“Do not worry about your worldly authorities now. They will not recognize you at all. I will arrange for you to be hired to replace yourself at your old job and they too will not recognize you. I need you inside that company doing exactly what you were doing before. These minions of yours will go out and influence things to provide for your maintenance and care until I call for you. Until then you are to find out as much as you can about The Evangelist Project and what the creature Paul Thomas has planned.” Rabdos jumped off his minion and Dante found he could move again just as the oily black smoke engulfed him. Once Dante vanished, Rabdos turned and spoke to the newly acquired imps.
“You are to obey him as you would me but understand that I am your true master, not he. Only I hold the power of life and death over you, not that sniveling little mortal soul. Find us more weak souls that have money and shelter for our man. There are several inside his company. Guide them to him and see that he is cared for and comfortable. He is important as will you be if you guard him well.”
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.